The cast of a hacky sci-fi TV show are recruited to help a race of aliens defend themselves.
Directed by Dean Parisot
Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman
Review by Jon Kissel
Real is the operative word here, as the Thermians have found themselves in battle with walking lizards led by the warlord Sarris. The consequences are instantly elevated beyond cancellation. The cast of Galaxy Quest’s only chance is to refamiliarize themselves with the ship, as it’s been perfectly recreated from the show, except that now the Take Off button actually ignites the beryllium sphere engine. Within the comic trope of the unprepared walking into the potentially organ-inverting, there’s also a classic progression for each character where they get better and better at their tasks. Dane does ultimately inspire the Thermians, Weber nimbly pilots the ship, and Nesmith is able to save the day with quick thinking and derring-do. Meanwhile, Kwan’s just happy to be there and Demarco acknowledges that her job is stupid and sexist but she’s going to do it anyway, goddammit.
Galaxy Quest would reside in the perfectly acceptable plane if it was solid gags and a strong cast to deliver them. Of that cast, two members considerably elevate the material. In a brilliant and tidy bit of writing, Dane is introduced lamenting having to say his nonsensical catchphrase for drooling fans when, for him, it’s lost all meaning if it ever had any in the first place. Years of this has made him a misanthrope towards strangers who love him before they’ve met him. Galaxy Quest achieves greatness by giving Dane the opportunity to say the catchphrase to a Thermian who doesn’t know it was all fake, and making it meaningful both for the dying Thermian and for Dane himself. That scene is why Alan Rickman is brought onboard and put in a silicone head apparatus for all of filming, and bridging the distance between the fantastical and the meaningful is why I watch movies. The other half of Galaxy Quest’s superlatives is Enrico Colantoni’s Thermian leader Mathesar. This is an exceptional physical performance, voiced unrecognizably by an actor I’ve seen in a dozen works. He’s acting like a conehead with a normal head, but still manages to be moving at moments of triumph and total defeat.
Galaxy Quest remains fun and warm two decades on because of its considerable strengths and because fan culture isn’t going anywhere. It’s only gotten worse and more strident and far less lovable. This film posits a world before booth girls and Gamergate, where everyone is earnest and pure in their love of a property and the worst thing that could be said about them is that they’ve perhaps misplaced their priorities. A corner of the culture so childish and frivolous could be cordoned off as a curiosity in the 90’s, but now it’s grown to consume practically the whole of culture. Still, it’s a lot easier to be a Dane and lament the downfall than it is to be a Kwan and calmly accept whatever’s happening. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta put your mouth on the mouth of that cephalopod alien in a human suit and forget all your troubles. B+